Liking negative news

Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 2:39 | Posted in ethics | Leave a comment

I am sometimes confused to detect what kind of news some people press the like button for on Google Reader. Deaths, accidents and other kind of news that are generally regarded as negative. What is there to like?

For me news about somebody’s death is by definition a sad piece of news. Whatever they did in their life and how much I may have disliked them while they were alive, everybody deservs to die in dignity. Hitting the like button for news like this is just bizarre.

What is the matter with you people?

Double standards

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 13:32 | Posted in equality, ethics, russia | Leave a comment
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Jaanus seems to have caught Apple with their pants down. He has located an explicitly discriminating job ad in Apple.ru. The ad has been taken down by now but Jaanus has saved a screen shot. The ad says: “представительная внешность, возраст от 18 до 30 лет” which translates to: “good looks, age between 18 and 30”.

Now, that would be illegal in a number of countries, including USA. I do not know if it is legal or even tolerated in Russia. The fact that Apple took the ad down might suggest the contrary but then again, it could be just because the ad received unwanted attention outside Russia.

Which ever the case, this incident clearly shows that major multinationals apply double or even triple or quadruple ethical standards. Apple would not even consider posting similar standards in an ad published in the US or in any EU country but they just did it in Russia.

Then it is quite another matter that I, aged 50, would be unlikely to actually get an Apple job even if it did not explicitly say in the job ad that applicants older than 30 need not bother. That is, of course, assuming that I had appropriate qualifications for the job in the first place.

Quoted by the media

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 0:05 | Posted in ethics, Journalism, Media | Leave a comment

Thomas has been briefly interviewed for an article about blogging lawyers in the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche. He does not seem to recognize the statement published by Wirtschaftswoche as his own. Unfortunately, this sort of mishaps are not uncommon.

Whenever somebody who has given a statement to a journalist feels that they were misquoted in the article or their statement was presented out of its intended context, it is a sign that there was something wrong in the communicating and mutual understanding between the journalist and the person who was interviewed. Having on many occasions been on both sides of the fence, I dare say that this is above all a matter of professional ethics and skills of the journalist. We are not supposed to interview and quote people in order to deliver our own opinion but to present the facts as objectively as possible.

While some journalists deliberately misquote people and tend to disallow solid facts to spoil a good story, I would like to think that most of us sincerely make an effort to get the facts right. Many mistakes happen because a journalist working on a story is too busy to check and double check. Many of us work with several stories at the same time with pressing deadlines to meet.

While checking a detail may feel like small potatoes for a journalist overloaded with work, getting misquoted in that detail is important for the person we interviewed. Silly mistakes can easily be prevented by routinely agreeing on some procedural basics.

Asking a journalist to present the article or the part concerning the person interviewed before printing should not be understood by the journalist as an insult. A simple exchange of e-mails does not take much time but it may be a very useful way to make sure that both parties have understood each other correctly. Appearing in media under one’s own name is not daily bread and butter for most people who are interviewed by journalists. By making sure that their statement appears correctly and in the right context results to a better article and helps increase credibility of the author and the publication.

Last time I was on the other side of the fence, i.e. being interviewed for a newspaper article, we did not have a chance to meet in person. The questions and answers were e-mailed and both of us also exchanged some information off the record. The manuscript was sent to me before it went to print. There was a minor missquote which I pointed out and got it corrected. Going through these simple steps had an improving effect on the printed article and both of us were happy.

Publications usually have a limited space for each article. Not everything may be published which was said or written between the two parties. In this recent case, nothing very essential was left out of the article, just some irrelevant sentences that did not change the contents of what I answered.

When a blogger is interviewed, there is always the chance to publish in the blog what did not fit in the paper. Publications obviously like to be the first to publish what their journalists have been working on. A blogger and a journalist should therefore make a gentlemen’s agreement that the blogger publishes the full interview only after the story has appeared in print.

That is what I did in this case. My blog post thus became something which supported the article in the paper. In that case, being quoted in the media was beneficial for both parties and a professional co-operation worked for the best of us both.

Do not act like I do

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 at 3:22 | Posted in ethics, Politics, Sweden | Leave a comment
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Ever so proper and ethical Swedes are shocked to learn what the ever so watchful and ethical press has digged out about their fresh Minister of Culture. It turns out that the conservative minister Cecilia Stegö Chilò has failed to pay for her TV license for at least 16 years. Her husband registered for the fee only five days before Ms. Chilò was to become the minister responsible for public broadcasting in Sweden.

TV license fees make out the basic financing of public television and radio in Sweden. 90 % of the population pays their fee and most of them do not even complain about it. Broadcasting financed by license fees has an exceptionally broad support among Swedes compared to other European nations.

The rightwing government that the Swedes voted for in September has pledged to maintain what is known as “the Swedish model”. While many Swedes would not consider a small scale tax cheat to be a serious matter even for a politician, they are less likely to approve a minister who has actively nibbled the foundations of the very area of government that they are supposed to be responsible for.

Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was not available for comment on Tuesday. He could hardly have gotten a worse start for his cabinet. Having to fire a minister a week after taking over the government does not look good.

I take it he has to do that unless he wants his government to be remebered as the cabinet who said: “Do not act like I do but like I tell you to.”

Welcome to this century

Friday, August 4, 2006 at 6:11 | Posted in ethics, eu | 13 Comments
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The BBC writes that the notorious Polish president Lech Kaczynski has urged EU to review its policy against death penalty. Mr. Kaczynski may not have noticed it but the rest of Europe had that debate already in 1960’ies. It is no longer an issue at this century.

The BBC article notes that the Polish president “advocates traditional catholic values”. The Spanish Inquisiton also used to be a catholic value with a wide influence in Europe. But the Spaniards are no doubt as little enthusiastic as the rest of EU to go back to those times.

Maybe with the exception of Lech Kaczynski. Jeszcze Polska nie zginela?

Another cartoon issue

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 at 19:38 | Posted in ethics, Finland, Freedom of speech, internet | 1 Comment

As I wrote back in February about the famous Mohammed cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten, I was asking if a strong religion can be offended by something as innocent as cartoons. I was asked back in one of the comments added to that post how christians would feel about similar cartoons featuring Jesus or the pope. I had no idea which is why I was trying to find out by publishing a cartoon about christians.

I still do not know if I managed to offend any christians but somebody else certainly has. As the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat writes, the Finnish atheists’ web site is under a police investigation for having published some cartoons that can be sent through the site as a webmail card. The cartoons have been on line since 1997 but they were only recently reported to the police who are now investigating them as blasphemy or incitement.

I would agree that sending some of those cards to a person who I knew to be a believing christian would be offensive. But that is exactly what the web site warns their visitors against doing. Some of the cartoons are actually sort of funny, so I might consider sending one of them to somebody whom I know as an atheist.

More to the point, I have hard time agreeing that publishing those cartoons on a web site that is explicitely atheistic could be regarded as blasphemy or incitement. Anybody entering the site would by default be warned that they could find some offensive material there. The very idea that the police are investigating the cartoons as a crime which could carry a jail penalty is bizarre.

Even more to the point, this is another of those sad examples how utterly wrong it is to regulate the freedom of speech in the web. The contents of the Internet can never be universally acceptable. There will always be something for everybody and everything will never satisfy all.

Live and let live is a good old approach. Which is why I would never send one of those cards to a religious person. But if they are not allowed to be accessed by like minded people, the Internet as we know it will no longer exist.

Wrong parking in Tallinn

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 7:50 | Posted in Blogosphere, Environment, Estonia, ethics, tallinn, traffic | Leave a comment
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Indrek in Tallinn is annoyed by drivers who park their vehicle carelessly. To tell the truth, the parking culture in the Estonian capital can not be described as very civilized. It is not that there would be lack of parking space in Tallinn, some drivers just seem to think that parking rules are for somebody else and they do not mind to get a parking ticket.

The most common and at the same time most irritating and arrogant way of false parking in Tallinn is to park in a space designated to disabled persons in front of a shopping mall entrance. Not only are those drivers, mostly young and healthy persons, being selfish and arrogant, they also make it harder for somebody with a handicap to access those malls. You would be most likely to spot an expensive car of the latest model in that kind of a parking space, crying out loud: “I am young and healthy and I have money so I do not care.”

Image: Indrek ‘BC’, Tallinn Estonia. Rights: Creative Commons

Being tired all of this, Indrek started to photograph the notorious parkers in Tallinn. As Indrek is an active photographer, it provided him as much of artistic pleasure as a notion of doing something about what he was feeling to be utterly wrong. Yesterday, he published the first pictures of parking hooligans in Tallinn in a brand new photo blog entitled Wrong parking. The blog is accessable in wrongparking.blogspot.com.

While hooligan parkers in Tallinn are not likely to be discouraged by the minimal price of the parking ticket, the prospect of being exposed in Indrek’s photo blog in a country with high Internet usage rate may just turn out to be the first step in improving the negligent traffic culture. Their message hitherto has been that they are rich and healthy. Indrek’s response is that they are jerks as well which just might trigger a second thought.

Indrek is also interested in sharing his blog space. Community response does not necessarily have to be limited to one town and one country. If you have pictures about hooligan parkers elsewhere, you may want to contact Indrek if you would like to share them. Just e-mail him at voyag[at]hot.ee You would know which sign to put instead of the [at].

Peeking behind the Fischerwerke scene

Thursday, June 15, 2006 at 13:57 | Posted in Blogosphere, ethics, Germany, hyperlink, internet, Legal, social | 5 Comments
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The 86 year old Artur Fischer is the founder of Fischerwerke. The corporation’s turnover last year was 457 million € and the family’s private assets are estimated to be around 250 million €. The corporation has been run since 1980 by the founder’s son, 55 year old Klaus Fischer.

The family’s daughter, the 58 year old Mrs. Margot Fischer-Weber used to work for her father and brother. She was born with a severe hearing disable and was unable to complete her school education. She joined the family enterprise as an employee at the age of 15 in 1963 and served the family for 36 years.

Mrs. Fischer-Weber abandoned her inheritance rights in favor of her brother in 1984. She describes the occasion when the act was signed and sealed by a notary in her web site. She says that she was not in position to understand the true meaning of the document she was presented to. Due to her disability, she was unable to properly hear what was being said and was provided with no legal advice. She says that she signed the document because she trusted her father.

Mrs. Fischer-Weber’s web site www.fischerfratze.de also includes a detailed and documented description of the circumstances, under which her employment came to an end. Without going into details I can tell you that it is not a flattering story about this stinking rich family in the hi-tech business. The site is entitled (in my free translation) “Sharks and other Fis(c)h(er)” and the domain name fischerfratze.de stands for fischer grimace.

The family’s lawyers sent a letter to Margot Fischer-Weber on Monday 12th June 2006 demanding the site be taken off line by Wednesday 14th June. In opposite case, the family threatens to sue their daughter for slander or libel. The site is on line as I type this on Thursday the 15th June.

The story has been covered by several German blogs: law blog, Mein Parteibuch, Basic Thinking, ElbeBlawg and others). Most of them do not link to Mrs. Fischer-Weber’s site because of the absurd German court practices. A hyperlink may make the linking site responsible of the contents in the disputed target site which means that bloggers under German jurisdiction would risk being sued by this family with much more wealth than social conscience.

Moral and ethical standards

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 18:07 | Posted in ethics, USA | 5 Comments
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As Washington Post reports, a United Nations panel that monitors compliance with the World’s anti-torture treaty has called for USA to close their prison in Guantanamo Bay. The expert panel delivers sharp criticism in their 11 page report.

According to Washington Post:

The committee also expressed concern about allegations that the United States has established secret prisons, where the international Red Cross does not have access to the detainees. The report did not specifically say that such prisons existed, but stated the United States “should ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its de facto effective control.”

Pentagon released on Monday an initial list of persons ever held in Guantanamo Bay. That list does not specify what happened to former Guantanamo Bay detainees. This raises suspicions that some of them may be in secret prisons in other countries where they may face torture.

The U.N. panel concludes (quote from Washington Post):

The panel said the United States must halt all forms of torture committed by its personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq and investigate allegations thoroughly, prosecuting any staff found guilty.

The US blog Rhymes With Right quotes a passage of the Washington Post article and adds this comment:

And we should give this matter precisely as much respect as Saddamite Iraq gave UN resolutions over the years.

Heck, we just need to repudiate the entire corrupt UN organization.

This is exactly the attitude that the United Nations is ciriticizing USA for in the first place. The interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq were justified by implying that USA would hold a higher moral and ethical standard than the Taleban regime in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq. Guantanamo Bay and those secret prisons undermine the very justification of that intervention.

I am sure that the blogger did not mean it that way but Rhymes With Right actually says that the morals and ethics of USA are not and should not even be higher than those of Taleban and Saddam.

In addition to that, the blogger displays outstanding arrogance. Sure, if you do not like what is being said and thought about you, just repudiate all criticism and those that deliver it. No wonder USA is about to loose the rest of us who consider ourselves to be its friends.

Business as usual

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 9:32 | Posted in Blogosphere, ethics, Germany, internet, Legal | Leave a comment
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Marcel Bartels writes that he has signed a legal document to satisfy the real estate business man Andreas Kodsi who sued him for this blog post. Marcel must make substantial cuts in the disputed and a couple of other posts. He also commits not to link to or spread information published in the domain Gomopa.net.

As I wrote here and here, Mr Kodsi won a trial in Hamburg against the German branch of Google. The court ruled that Google must manually edit all search result previews on searches related to him. Fighting Google is one thing but why would a millionaire real estate dealer sue a “little guy”?

The Internet is a powerful tool. It gives the ordinary guy access to global information in a way that we could not even dream about for some 15 years ago. It also provides businesses an opportunity to fulfill marketing strategies that are cheaper, more flexible and more effective than ever before. If you want to spread your information, the Web is the place to spread it.

Now, why would a succesful business man explicitly mouth gag a blogger from publishing info and link to a business forum whose goal is to expose and object rip-off and cheat? Why would an honest business man force the very mirror of the Web, Google, to filter what is reflected in the mirror about him? Would it be because many of those search results include words and expressions like Schrottimobilien, Mitternachtsnotare and Immobilienbetrug? Or is there a major conspiracy going on in the World Wide Web with participation of the Google, business forums and bloggers against this unfortunate business man?

Lawyer Renate G Binder explains here some of the aggressive marketing methods in the real estate market. These have caused many people in Germany to make hasty and ill informed decisions and buy heavily over rated real estate objects, so called junk properties. A more thorough presentation of the theme is here.

While the Binder § Beier legal web site does not mention names of businesses that are known or suspected to use the methods they describe, those methods are remarkably similar to methods connected to Andreas Kodsi and his company Die Dienstleister by Gomopa.net. Gomopa.net is the domain that Mr. Kodsi’s lawyers mouth gagged Marcel from linking to or publishing their information. Why would an honest business man want to do that?

Marcel Bartels can not afford a legal battle against an angry multi millionaire. German websites do not dare publish his name. Google is forced to venture their integrity by introducing same sort of a censorship in Germany as they and others conduct in China.

Is this a bad dream? Or is it just business as usual?

Self appointed archivist

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 4:53 | Posted in Blogosphere, ethics, Germany, internet, Legal | 4 Comments
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How would you like to earn money with your blog? That question must have slipped through the thoughts of many bloggers. To attract serious ad revenue you would need a lot of quality contents. What if somebody else wrote all those posts for you?

Christian Mielke in Brandenburg, Germany must have been thinking somewhere along those lines when he got the idea of starting his Archiv Blog. The description of the “archive” explicitly spells out that the blog does not publish any self produced contents but “archives” posts of German language blogs. Mr. Mielke presents his blog as a “free backup service” for German bloggers funded by ads. Apparently, the posts are collected by a spider harvesting RSS feeds of the blogs.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mielke forgot to do his legal homework. He did not find it necessary to ask the bloggers if they want him to “back up” their blogs. He seems to have thought that an opt out link in his site would be enough to cover any copyright infringement claims.

Many German bloggers were less than amused to detect that someone was reproducing their posts in order to make money with them. One of them was long time blogger and criminal lawyer Udo Vetter in Düsseldorf. He sent Mr. Mielke a friendly e-mail which could best be decribed as legal advise pro bono.

Mr. Vetter points out that he wants to be asked first if somebody wants to reproduce his blog posts. He also advises Mr. Mielke that the announced intention to seek revenue makes the copyright infringement aggravating and infringing copyright is also prosecutable in Germany. Mr. Vetter finishes his letter by demanding his posts to be removed within 24 hours. Any correspondence after the deadline would not be cheap for Mr. Mielke. The posts disappeared from Archive Blog almost immediately.

Sven Scholtz in Niederwerrn delivers his claim of removal in a post in his blog. He makes the ironic assumption that there would be no need to mail his pretentions as Mr. Mielke would surely read the posts he “archives”. Mr. Scholtz sets a deadline to Wednesday May 10th and promises to send a bill to Mr. Mielke if he still detects his posts in Archive Blog on Wednesday. At this moment, less than 24 hours before the deadline, the posts are still there.

What may have looked like a lucrative chance to earn some money with small effort is about to turn into a nightmare for Christian Mielke. The legality of his activities would be at least questionable in almost any country and there is no doubt that this sort of “archiving” is highly unethical. But I am very much surprised that anybody would try to pull out something like this in Germany.

As I explained in this post in context of the suing practices of Andreas Kodsi, the German jurisdiction makes the bloggers responsible also for the web contents that they link to. Just imagine what flood of lawsuites Mr. Mielke could be facing by re-publishing loads of blog posts apparently without reading them. Unlike Sven Scholtz, I am not going to pretend that I would believe Mr. Mielke to be reading a line of what he reproduces.

All posts of Mein Parteibuch seem to have disappeared from Blog Archiv. I do not know whether Marcel Bartels took the initiative to removing them or if Mr. Mielke possibly discovered by himself that re-publishing Marcel’s posts is a risky business since they tend to attract all sorts of lawsuites. Like this one or this one or this one.

If there is anything to be learned from this incident it would be that there is no fast track to earning money with your blog. If you want to give it a try, go ahead but please remember that you need to write your own posts. Bloggers are also authors and their work is covered by the same copyright regulations as the work of all authors.

Update: The Blog-Archiv seems to have been closed on Tuesday morning. I take it that Christer Mielke understood that he was on a thin ice and came to the right conclusion. This goes to show that bloggers are awake and trying to pull their leg does not pay. I do not want to speculate whether the site was started in the first place because of bad judgement or bad intentions but I am glad that Mr. Mielke did the decent thing.

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